With spring practice scheduled to start this upcoming Friday, Nick Saban addressed the media earlier this afternoon and discussed several roster developments. Todd linked to the major news earlier today, but I wanted to further discuss the impact that some of these developments look to have.
The biggest news of the afternoon was Eddie Lacy, who will apparently miss all of spring practice, though this does not come as a major surprise. Lacy is less than eight weeks removed from foot surgery to help correct a lingering turf toe injury that plagued him throughout last season, and with no second tailback on the roster that has proven he can be an interchangeable, every-down option, it only makes sense to take the utmost caution with Lacy given that he could be called upon as a workhorse this fall.
In the interim, the second tailback job will be effectively wide open. Jalston Fowler has the most experience, of course, but Blake Sims, Dee Hart, and T.J. Yeldon, the early enrollment out of Daphne, will all have an opportunity to stake their claim for playing time. Any of the aforementioned backs could feasibly leave spring practice as the prohibitive favorite going into the fall, and if nothing else spring practice will largely function as a way of sorting the cream from the crop in the backfield.
Arie Kouandjio will also miss practice this spring, as he attempts to recover from two knee surgeries performed last fall. His absence will open up an opportunity for someone to seize a back-up job at tackle, though with Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker returning this should not have any major impact on the starting unit.
The good news here, however, is what was not mentioned, namely that Cyrus Kouandjio would miss spring practice. He may be withheld from some contact work, of course, but the fact that Cyrus will apparently participate in many activities this spring only portends good things about his recovery from knee surgery this past fall. Keep in mind, a healthy Cyrus Kouandjio means that Barrett Jones can move to center without upsetting the order outside at tackle.
Tyler Love and Undra Billingsley have both graduated and have since decided to give up their football careers, though the departure of neither of them looks to have an outsized impact. It would have certainly been nice had Love returned to help solidify depth at tackle, given the uncertainty over the knee injuries to the Kouandjio brothers, but admittedly he had no direct path to playing time and he has had injury issues of his own in recent years. Billingsley figures to have less of an impact, and with such great returning depth at defensive end, his role on the team would likely have been solely as a special teams player and the occasional run blocker at tight end on the offensive side of the ball. Ideally both would return, but it's hard to fault either of them for their decision.
The approach of spring practice, as usual, once again also brought on a slate of spring suspensions, this time in the form of Duron Carter, Michael Bowman, and Ronald Carswell. From the outset, it should be noted that, historically speaking under Nick Saban, spring suspensions routinely turn into fall dismissals for violations of team rules, and it should come no surprise if that is the fate of the above-mentioned three come early this August.
Duron Carter may be a great player if he can ever get on the field, but based on the latest development -- which is not related to the academic limbo that marred his arrival last August -- the prudent observer would have to see him on the field before he believes it will ever happen. That he is still on the roster is encouraging, but Carter came to Tuscaloosa with a litany of past off-field problems in tow, and by all accounts those off-field problems continue to plague his career. At this point, I think most are expecting to see Carter take the field right after Titus Ryan and Mike Ford.
Michael Bowman encouraged some observers by even returning with the team last fall, but obviously any goodwill he generated last summer has now gone by the wayside, and the fact that he was back in the doghouse was readily apparent when he did not make the trip with the team to the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans. At this point there is just no rational reason to expect Bowman to return this fall, and even less of a reason to think he will ever actually contribute on the field. Carswell, meanwhile, is just a complete unknown given the fact that he greyshirted and has since never seen the field, but he too has been under Saban's disciplinary ire for an extended period of time, so his return, too, is perhaps unlikely.
Brent Calloway will be on the move this spring, as he makes his transition to linebacker. Exactly how he figures in there is anyone's guess at this point, and frankly all that can be definitively said at this point regarding his situation is that, as nearly everyone thought all along, he was just wasting his time at tailback and he will have to significantly gain weight before he can become a viable, every-down option at linebacker. Perhaps he can figure into the Sam battle with Jonathon Atchison, which is likely his best short-term bet, but either way with crowded depth charts at both linebacker and safety perhaps the only real surprise here would be if he can find his way onto the field in a meaningful role this fall.
Finally, in closing, I'll note that the departure of Jay Williams is largely the biggest non-news of the afternoon. After being unable to beat out Cody Mandell the past two seasons, despite Mandell often being highly inconsistent in his own right, the odds were that Williams was never going to see the field, and as a general matter no one believed he was on scholarship after losing out to Mandell two years ago. Best of luck to him moving forward, of course, but realistically he did not factor into any real possibility of playing time in the future and his departure for the baseball diamond should not have any impact on the overall scholarship limitations.